What should you REALLY ask your fellow travellers?

The awkward traveller "getting to know your" conversation

The “are you someone I want to associate with” conversation is something that happens in all walks of life. If you work in a big city the conversation usually starts off with “Where do you work? What industry are you? Where do you live? Oh do you know so-and-so?” these first vital questions when you meet someone can often determine how much energy you are going to put into getting to know them.  If all of their answers show that you have absolutely nothing in common then you may not try so hard to get past those initial impressions.

Of course there are other factors that may determine your how you build your relationship with someone – attractiveness, charisma, sense of humour or they may have another interest that is completely aligned with your so that you can look past the fact that their answers to the initial inquiries were the complete opposite of your own.

Imagine your first day in a retirement home, you would ask the standard identifying questions “Are you married? Oh a widow? What doctor do you see? How many grandchildren do you have? What does your son do? Did you watch Better Homes and Gardens yesterday?” how would you feel if every answer you received from someone was the complete opposite of your own interests? Like a fish out of water I am sure.  Then an off the cuff comment about your passion for parasurfing lights a small fire in the other persons eye – instant friends for life!

Old people funnyTravellers are exactly the same, when you first meet someone you go through the questions that determine whether they are someone you wish to hang out with.

  • Where are you from?
  • Where have you been?
  • Where are you going?
  • How long are you travelling?
  • Are you travelling alone?
  • When do you leave this place?
  • Have you tried/eaten/seen that amazing thing that you HAVE to see/eat/do?

What does this really tell you about someone? You could have a very different travel style and different interests in where you are going and what you are seeing but that person may just be the ideal best friend/husband/wife/travel companion/cribbage partner.

Relax there is a way to find out if the amazing people you are meeting have more to offer than the what the common identifying questions offer. What you need is a maverick question – a question that will exhibit responses from people who will satisfy your need to get to know them with ease and speed. A way to break out of the mould and standard answers and pull back the layers to find their inner passions.

After a full moon party in Thailand several years ago, in need some time to recover and regenerate I hopped over to the island paradise of Koh Tao.  The island is so relaxing that the two days I had planned there extended to three, then four, then five – before I actuallyThe awkward traveller "getting to know your" conversation had to leave due to visa restrictions.  My days were simple, I would get up, wander down the main street parallel to the beach sipping a fruit smoothie until I found a great place to relax, I would then set up my towel for the day, every time I got too hot I would roll into the water for a splash or a snorkel.  When I got hungry I would find a restaurant that was hanging over the water so I could continue to eat noodles, relax, snorkel, eat, relax, snorkel. When evening came I would sneak back home for a nap before heading down to one of the many beanbag bars on the beach.  I would then sit in a beanbag slowly sipping on my beer watching fire dances and laughing with my many new friends – suddenly it would be nearly dawn which meant hurrying to grab a pancake before flopping back into bed. Repeat!

During one of these beanbag conversations the question was posed – Who would win between a Great White Shark and  a Saltwater Crocodile? Debate ensued almost immediately. Parameters had to be defined before any serious conclusions could be met.

  • Both creatures are fully grown: Full grown Great White is 6 meters, Saltwater Crocodile is 6 meters (evenly matched)
  • Water depth is deep enough that the both creatures have room to manoeuvre
  • The water is salt – as both creatures need salt.
  • Both are hungry and are extremely cranky!

By the end of the evening there was a clear split in the group, half thought the crocodile would have better chance of grabbing and thrashing the shark by the tail or fin taking it into a death roll.  Others argued that the shark could grab and rip off a leg or arm and that its body mass is too big for the crocodile to get their jaws round.

In the end the answer didn’t really matter – what did matter was that by the end of the conversation the four people who were left discussing it turned out to be the best people for me to spend my time with on Koh Tao – and in fact I am still in contact with most of them.

Making friends!

Making friends!

I decided to take this question and try it out when I met other travellers, this then became my barometer for connecting with people.  If they didn’t understand the question or thought it was weird – they clearly didn’t enjoy the absurd and ridiculous the same way I do. If they immediately jumped on google to find out the answer they didn’t see the point was to have a conversation and discuss. If they couldn’t give a reason as to why they thought either the crocodile or shark would win then they weren’t giving it the proper analytical consideration.

What I found is that when you give someone a strange and out there topic to discuss they tell you a lot more about them selves than if you were just discussing the road from Chang Mai to Bangkok.  Suddenly people would explain personal anecdotes, fears, pet peeves, bucketlist items and even fetishes. The best answer I have was from a German guy who I ended hanging out with for a few days, after pondering the question for a while he said “What if we added a fully grown anaconda into the mix” – Wow, mind blown!How to avoid the old traveller questions?

For years this has worked for me – but alas last week the Northern Territory News in Australia may have answered the question (if you don’t read the Northern Territory News I strongly suggest you start – its editorial content is an ongoing joke about crocodiles and scantily clad women).

In reading further into the sensational article I have discovered that the conditions have not quite been met.  The shark in question was a Bull Shark – the Great White Sharks smaller meaner brother.  At a measly 2.5 meters it didn’t have the size or the strength to go up against Darwin’s biggest known corc Brutus who is 80 years old and 5.5 meters long. I breathed a sigh of relief – my get to know you question still works!

Out of interest – who do you think would win between the Great White Shark and the Saltwater Crocodile?


3 thoughts on “What should you REALLY ask your fellow travellers?

  1. This is really great! So many times we’ve had the “where do you live? where did you come from? where are you going next? what do you do?” conversations and we’re totally over it! I’d love to jump right in to “hey what made you happy today?” or “if you had to wear a tutu all day, what color would it be?” So thanks for writing about this! And for the record, I vote for the crock. It would be close, and sharks are indeed badass, but I think the crock could out maneuver in the end.

    • Oh I love the tutu question! That’s pure brilliance! You could also go with – if you were hit by one of those shrink rays out of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” what giant thing would you want to explore? And I have always been partial to the shark – because they are fast!

  2. Your last 2 blogs were good and I found them both very interesting but I don’t think I will ever find a Japanese ,sushi hot dog bap stall in my village.I’m sure some of the Grockles would be interested tho’. I found the latest blog a lot more interesting.,the question you have proposed is relevent to most walks of life and that as a sailor i have found very usefull.”What should you ask your fellow travelers.”I think your answers are as good as anybody could use.Keep asking questions and publish all the different answers that you get

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